Excel 2007/2010/2013: Using Data Validation to provide drop-down selection menu

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In Excel, there are various ways to provide a drop-down menu in a form or in cells. With drop-down menus, also called combo boxes, you can select an option based on pre-selected data.

Using data validation to create a drop-down selection menu

Samples of data where drop-dowm menus will be useful are gender (Male and Female options), Status (Single, Married, Divorced, etc options) and many others. The major reasons for providing a combo box or drop-down selection menu includes the following:

  • To allow users to just pick from selected values
  • To limit the users' selection

On the other hand, combo boxes or drop-down selection menus are only applicable when:

  • The data selection are finite. For instance, gender can be Male or Female. This is a good example where drop-down menu can be of use.
  • You want to limit or restrict the data selection
  • You want the users to just pick from a list

In this article, I will show you how create a combo-box or drop-down menu in your cells using Data Validation. The procedures are detailed below:

Suppose you are a teacher or a resource speaker who wants to get your audience' feedback after your speech, training or seminar. If this is a real session-hall scenario, then Feedback Forms will be distributed allowing the participants to fill them out. However, if this is a virtual undertaking, then the easiest way is to create an Excel Feedback Form utilizing Data Validation to provide selections for their choices.

Step 1: Open MS Excel and name Sheet 1 as Feedback Form. Then layout the form with the following data:


Q1: What is your overall impression on the topics tackled in the seminar?                                
Q2: Are the topics relevant to you?                                
Q3: Would you recommend this seminar to your family and friends?                                
Q4: How do you rate the speaker's knowledgeability on the topics?                                
Q5: How do you rate the speaker's delivery of the topics?                                
Q6: Would you recommend this speakers to others?                                
Step 2: Layout the sheet to make it appear like this screen shot:

Sample layout of the feedback form

Step 3: Rename Sheet 2 to DATA. This is the sheet where all the selections in the drop-down menu will be stored. In this case, you can make up answers to the questions in Step 2 and enter and layout the answers in the DATA sheet like this screen shot below:

Sample responses

Step 4: To make use of the information stored in the DATA sheet for our desired drop-down menu, open the Feedback Form sheet. Click on the cell opposite the cell containing "Gender", click on the "Data" menu and then click on Data Validation button in the Data Tools group..

Data Validation button in the Data menu under Data Tools group

Step 5: In the dialog box that opens, click on the Settings tab. In the Validation criteria, under "Allow" combo box, select "List". Then make sure that the two (2) check boxes "Ignore blank" and "In-cell drop-down" are checked.

Data validation dialog box

Step 6: In the "Source" box, click on the small button with the red arrow to minimize the dialog box and to let you allow to select the range to be used in the list.

Data validation dialog box SOURCE box

Step 7: You will notice that Data Validation dialog box will shrink and then you can now make selections. This time, please click on the DATA sheet, then select the cells containing Male and Female like the screen shot below:

Sample data for the drop-down menu selected

Step 8: Now when you made the selections, press Enter or click on the button with the red arrow in the Data Validation box to get the updated dialog. Then click on the OK button to apply the changes you just made.

Step 9: Then you shall notice that in the Feedback Form sheet, when you click on the cell opposite to Gender, the options for Male and Female will now show up for the user to select.

Data validation in action

Step 10: Now, you can follow the steps above to create the data validation for the other required information like Employment, Sector, Education and the options for the responses for questions 1 through 6.

However, you can download the completed sample Excel file in the link below.


MS Office Software: